Certainly, the attention of this country has been seized by the recent sexual harassment charges involving famous people. Last fiscal year, the EEOC fielded 550,000 calls and 140,600 office visits, a number that will likely only rise given the increased attention the issue of workplace harassment is receiving.
We thought that this could be a good time to provide small businesses information about the definition of sexual harassment and its types, proactive and reactive measures, plus employee training.
Sexual Harassment Definition
According to the EEOC, Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:
- The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
- The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
- Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
- The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.
New Website Makes Filing Easy
On November 1, 2017, the EEOC launched a new website with tutorial videos in both English and Spanish where anyone who believes they may have been a victim of harassment can report the incident and initiate an inquiry.
Quartz reports that the website has been created to make the process for filing a report much easier than it was in the past. Previously, anyone who felt that they were a victim would have had to call the agency or physically go into an EEOC office to start the process. Now, all an employee needs to do is fill out a confidential form online and, if the requirements are met, the process will be started. The site is not limited to sexual harassment. It covers all sorts of discrimination including age, race, religion and gender.
Proactive and Reactive Measures
Two integral parts of a sexual harassment policy are employee training and a reporting process, which refers to a series of steps that employees should follow to report unacceptable behavior. These are important elements because the EEOC strongly recommends that employers use both proactive and reactive measures to prevent and address sexual harassment.
Create sufficient proactive measures, such as developing a policy, publishing the policy in the employee handbook and mandating employee training. Reactive measures begin with the designation of an HR staff member or company manager responsible for receiving and investigating employee complaints. They end with the company working swiftly to resolve complaints of sexual harassment to avoid the time and expense of defending complaints about sexual harassment escalating to formal charges with the EEOC or a lawsuit.
Required training for both workers and managers varies by state, but is always a good investment in your small business’ future. California is one of the states at the forefront of sexual harassment training. The state requires supervisors undergo two hours of interactive training every two years.
A training course can include both online and classroom content. The most successful have incorporated both skill building activities and hypothetical situations. The courses should contain sections on what constitutes sexual harassment, what to do when harassing behavior takes place, how to report harassment and the responsibilities of both employers and employees.
Dean and Draper
Hopefully you have found this information useful. When you have questions about your personal or business insurance needs, we invite you to call.
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